6:00pm: Sportsline with Tony Caridi

Sportsman PAC Forms to Back Tomblin


Governor Earl Ray Tomblin is about to get the backing of yet another political action committee.  However, unlike PACs which generate big dollars to bolster a campaign, this one is purely grass roots.   

“Sportsmen for Tomblin” will stage an event this weekend in Flatwoods with the aim of encouraging hunters and anglers to back the governor’s reelection.   It’s a $50 dollar a plate affair, but organizers say it’s about more than raising money.

"Sportsmen are a grassroots phenomenon," said Dave Arnold, one of those putting the PAC together. "You get all the sportsmen going the same way on an issue and there’s nothing that can stop them."

Arnold says backing Tomblin isn’t a slight to Republican Candidate Bill Maloney, but more a sense of loyalty to Tomblin’s record on hunting and fishing issues.

"The truth is some of us tend to lean more Democratic," admits Arnold. "But at the same time, I think a lot of us in the sportsman’s’ world don’t have a clue about Maloney.  I don’t know that he’s reached out, now maybe Maloney has and I’m not in that loop, that’s certainly possible, I don’t know."

Tomblin does seem to be reaching out.  He recently staged a dinner at the governor’s mansion attended by 30 to 40 invited leaders of Sportsman and Conservation organizations in the state.    Arnold, who wasn’t invited, said those who attended indicate the aim was to informally listen.

"There was no agenda, just ‘What’s important to you guys?’" Arnold said. "I can tell you working with governors all my adult life, there’s nothing I like better than somebody who says, ‘I’m not here for a specific reason, and I want to hear what’s important.’"

Maloney notes on his website and often in speaking publicly of his strong support of the Second Amendment.  He vows to be a strong defender of the right to keep and bear arms if elected.   

Tomblin recently won the lucrative endorsement of the NRA with an A+ rating.   NRA also endorsed Tomblin in the last election and in the primary.  They credit Tomblin’s signing of a bill from this year’s session dealing with seizure of firearms, and a bill dealing with the purchase of firearms.  The NRA also lauded Tomblin’s support of an apprentice hunting and fishing license.  

It’s not unusual in races where both candidates are strong supporters of gun owners rights, for the NRA to endorse the incumbent based on their record.

Bernie Dowler is retired from the DNR. He spent time as head of warm water fisheries, then Chief of Wildlife, and eventually Deputy Director.  He’s now among those organizing Sportsmen for Tomblin.

"Knowing from my experience in all the years I spent in administration, the contacts I had, Earl Ray Tomblin was one of the most dependable legislators when we needed guidance and advice on legislation," said Dowler. "He always understood issues. He would never let us leave a meeting until he thoroughly understood what we were there for.”  

Dowler credits Tomblin for shutting down an effort in the legislature in the mid-90’s to divert hunting and fishing license money into other parts of state government.  

Arnold and Dowler aren’t sure how much money they can raise or how many people the organization will attract. 

"The bottom line is this is REALLY grass roots.  This isn’t somebody trying to do something with a lot of money," Arnold said. "This is trying to energize a grass roots movement we think is very important in West Virginia."

The dinner is 6:00 Saturday night at the Days Hotel in Flatwoods.


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